Sunday, May 31, 2015

An Authors' Event: Along the River and Through the Woods of South Jersey

Yesterday I committed to participate in an author's event at the Landis Amish Marketplace in Vineland. I found that Google maps decided to take me through the picturesque route of Upper Mays Landing and into Cumberland county.
Forget Camden city, South Jersey has some gorgeous and pristine woodlands that outshine the rustic Pine Barrens. 
Yes,it really looked like that!
I made a left instead of a right turn and although that made me late for my event, the longer drive gave me the chance to simply admire the view on the road less taken. I think it's like writing, if you take the straight and short route, you'll get to your destination, but it might not be as enjoyable.
The dense forest along each side of the newly paved two lane roads is not any road I'd venture to travel at night, but during the sunny light of day I found it relaxing to sort of get lost in the woods. 
A fellow compatriot, Marie Gilbert, checked in on my ETA, to which I informed her that I was taking the long way, not deliberately, but no less enjoyable since I was slowed down  passing through a couple communities that were more like cozy hamlets, celebrating the Spring with music festivals and craft fairs.
Once I arrived at the Landis Market in Vineland, my view was chastened by struggles of revitalizing the once thriving and vital city of Vineland.
While on one of those stretches of Jersey backroads I passed through small but seemingly productive farms, with a beautiful McMansion anchored in the rear. There were no McMansions to be found in center city Vineland. The Landis Marketplace does a brisk business with the Amish stands. I personally zeroed in the bacon, reminiscent of the Lake Logan bacon, enjoyed on my retreats in Asheville,  but that is another story.This bacon was reasonably priced as were most of the products, especially the fresh meats. Check it out, you won't be disappointed. 

Oh, the authors' event, I got sort of lost there, thinking about the woods. 

I was promoting the anthology Writing in Circles by Sunburst Writers. This is an anthology of collected stories written by women from across the country that have retreated with Peggy Tabor Millin using her writing process in the comfort and support of writing while gathered in a circle. I am happy to be included in this collection and doubly blessed to be among this group of writerly 'sisters'. 

Here is my "shelfie selfie" at A Novel Idea Chapter 2:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Have we hit a wall or is this just another leg in the journey? A Grammy rant.

I just returned from my grandson’s IEP meeting along with his parents. There is a building frustration on many levels among us as Parents and Grandparents.

He has great teachers and a good program. He goes to a school that addresses special needs and multiple disabilities on many different levels. He still struggles to read, regardless of his program. Some of it is his limited vision, some of it is his developmental aptitude, some of it is basic teenage willfulness and non-compliance. We’ve all been there. His report card displays marks all in the high 90’s along with comments stating he is a ‘pleasure’ to have in class. So where is that ‘building frustration’, one might ask? I think a wall has been hit.
This is uncharted territory for all of us. I don’t know of any family that is handed a manual on how to raise a child with developmental issues, whether they are born with them or acquired. There is no rule book and don’t we all wish we had one.  In any developmental delay, it’s all relatively defined on a sliding scale. Nothing is an absolute.  That sliding scale is what helps identify the extra support and what specialized intervention is needed, but that doesn’t identify the unknown. Nobody gets the advantage of crystal ball for the future of their child. While we might know what the program and planning is for the coming year, we do not know how he will acclimate or IF he will acclimate to new expectations. That is not only frustrating, it must feel frightening to a parent who looks at their young adult child and has to seriously think about how or if their child will be able to function and survive as an independent adult.

My personal frustration is sitting with his parents and sensing the disappointment that comes with the realization that regardless of superior interventions and support, nothing is going to ‘fix’ his disabilities. Likewise, I can’t fix their disappointment or frustration.  Especially frustrating for me, after thirty-five years of IEP meetings and planning, I still chafe at the sometimes patronizing rapport between the professionals and the family. I saw that today for the first time a long time. My role in these meetings is a knowledge base resource and more importantly today, to be the buffer for my daughter and her husband with the Child Study team. I don’t mind, I know my role. Today’s meeting was anticipated to be more emotional than previous IEP meetings, mostly because as his parents they are concerned that their son was not achieving certain milestones. There was also discussion that it might be an option to discuss a different school. It’s not that they see an untapped potential in their son. But what they do see is a lack of practical skills that they expect for him at this stage of his life. That is where the patronizing began. After expressing their feelings the counselor stated to the parents, “You have to understand what his limits are...” Seriously?  I believe every parent wants more from their kid and their school performance, when a parent is actively participating and attending an IEP meeting, just what is it you think they don’t understand?

I have taken a deep breath at many IEP meetings and usually just after such a statement. To their credit, they maintained their cool. That was the ‘teaching moment’ for them, another moment in this journey when they realize more than ever, this will always be an uphill battle for their son and the family. Nobody’s intuition about where the ‘limits’ are will be stronger than that of the family. That is what everybody else will have to understand. It's our journey.